Table of Content

Cybersecurity Frameworks

Key Management Interoperability Protocol

PKI management and its mistakes

PKI management & its mistakes

Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is a framework that governs the issuing of digital certificates to secure confidential data and provide unique identities to users. TLS/SSL mainly uses PKI to establish secure connections between User and Server and is also used to authenticate IoT devices. PKI is also used to secure end-to-end communications using asymmetric encryption using public and private keys.

What is PKI Management?

It is becoming complex to manage PKI as compared to early times. If PKI is compromised due to improper management, it can cause a data breach as the volume of digital certificates increases exponentially. So basically, PKI Management, as the name suggests, is an effective way to organize and handle the public key infrastructure that includes many tasks and responsibilities.
PKI Management includes managing Certificates and Keys, CAs, HSMs, and a lot more. So, PKI Management has required expertise in today’s scenario as it just can’t be ignored.

Common PKI Management Risks/Mistakes

Improper PKI Management gives birth to various errors. It creates room for different malfunction, outages, and threats. When best practices are not being followed, a few risks arise within the system.

Here are a few of the standard PKI Management mistakes usually encountered:

  • Lack of crypto agility

    Crypto Agility is an ability in a security system to rapidly adapt to a new algorithm without significantly changing the system infrastructure. This process is most important as with the development of Public key infrastructure; threats are also evolving. So, whenever any vulnerability is being discovered within the system, PKI should try to resolve it as soon as possible by updating all the crypto mechanisms. If this process doesn’t work accordingly, it can exploit vulnerabilities.

  • Improper Visibility

    With thousands of certificates being stored in the system, Certificate Admins can’t take care of every certificate effectively. When these certificates increase into many, an Outage is on the door. It leads to certification expiration and outages because it is pretty difficult for operators to find, update, renew every certificate before their expiry.

  • Absence of Automation

    Manual management is challenging, with thousands of certificates being circulated every day. An organization cannot simply rely on manual control to keep Public Key Infrastructure updated. It is a generic need to include automated workflows for various Public Key Infrastructure tasks. Automation helps in increasing efficiency and decreasing human errors.

  • Short Keys Usage

    The length of encryption keys determines their strength against attacks. As computational power continues to increase, shorter keys become vulnerable, necessitating the use of longer ones for robust security. Currently, 2048-bit keys are the standard, but businesses need to plan for future upgrades to meet evolving threats, especially with the advancements in quantum computing.

  • Inadequate protection of Key and Certificate

    The security of keys depends on proper storage. Storing keys openly, like in spreadsheets or USBs, instead of using secure tools like Hardware Security Modules (HSMs), exposes them to theft. Inadequate access controls compound the risk, potentially leading to compromised information, malicious code, and reputational damage.

  • Usage of Self-Signed Certificates

    Organizations often issue their own self-signed certificates for testing purposes. While they are safe in controlled environments, if forgotten or released into production, these certificates lack robustness and secure storage, posing risks of impersonation and chaos when exploited by bad actors.

  • Irregular rotation of Keys

    Certificate Authorities (CAs) enforce shorter certificate lifespans for integrity. Despite the standard 13-month lifespan, best practices recommend rotating certificates every six months. However, neglecting associated key rotation is common, leaving businesses vulnerable to exploitation and compromising their security posture. Regular key rotation is crucial to prevent malicious use of compromised keys and impersonation risks, though it remains an uncommon practice.

  • Using Outdated Security Protocols

    In the fast-paced and constantly evolving realm of cryptography, sticking to obsolete protocols like TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 is a huge risk that businesses cannot afford to take. This invites potential exploits and data breaches, thereby putting sensitive data and customer privacy in jeopardy. It is imperative that businesses upgrade to the latest protocols, such as TLS 1.2 or TLS 1.3, opt for advanced encryption algorithms like AES or 3DES, and prioritize SHA-2 or equivalent for robust protection against potential threats.

PKI Best Practices

All organization that deals with PKI must have encountered the above-listed common problems. With a few PKI Security practices, organizations can avoid them. Here listing a few best rules to follow:

  • Designing of Infrastructure

    Before implementing a PKI, Infrastructure should be appropriately designed and planned as a small mistake can cost a huge. So, organizations should make a detailed plan before integrating, as it is essential in the scenario.

  • Up-to-date Security Protocols

    Always remain updated with the latest security patches and protocols. Always keep your PKI attached with the latest to keep it secured.

  • Certificate Inventory

    Organizations need to maintain a certificate inventory to keep track of the certificates stored. Due to the large and increasing number of certificates every day, we need auditing.

  • Robust Security

    Always protect your stored keys and certificates at any cost. For maximum protection, organizations can keep them on Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) or at a different place from the Internet.

  • Examine and Revoke

    Public key infrastructure never sits static. Regular rotating and inspection of certificates are necessary. A proactive system should be there for revoking and suspending expired or outdated certificates to avoid any threats.

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